Lawsuits may follow if bouncers get violent with rowdy patrons

Revelries in bars are not always happy events for patrons, bouncers or bar owners. 

Vince Colella, managing partner of Michigan-based personal injury and civil rights law firm, Moss & Colella, P.C., has handled dozens of bar liability cases in his legal career and says when drinking leads to drunkenness or injury in rowdy bars, lawsuits may follow.

“Bouncers can use reasonable force to escort people from the premises, but in their zeal to keep bar patrons under control, they can overstep their bounds in protecting their employer’s establishment,” Colella said. “The correct response for bouncers and bar owners is to call the police when drunken or unruly patrons won’t leave safely. Otherwise, bouncer-induced injuries ranging from broken bones and teeth to serious head injuries can result when patrons are literally thrown out of a bar – then the lawsuit follows.”

Colella is currently handling a bar liability case against a Southeast Michigan bar where his client was thrown to the ground by security and the patrons who attacked the client and shouted slurs were let go.  Police were called after the incident and are investigating.

“The biggest challenge in bar liability cases is that the patrons filing complaints have usually been consuming alcohol, thus creating a potential credibility gap,” Colella said. “The bouncers are generally assumed to be sober. However, no or non-operating surveillance cameras on the premises, along with unrestrained bouncers, combine to seriously damage a bar owner’s testimony. In the overwhelming majority of cases where negligence is found, the bar owner settles the case, often for tens of thousands of dollars.”

Colella says bar owners should only hire bouncers who have been trained in security and crowd control. His advice to bar patrons?

“If you see a bouncer getting physically violent with a patron, even if you are not involved, leave the bar immediately to ensure your safety and call the police to handle the situation,” Colella said.

Colella adds that Michigan is one of several states with liquor liability laws that may hold bar owners responsible for serving minors or intoxicated patrons who then cause injury to themselves or others.  However, a person may only recover damages where there is sufficient evidence to show that the ‘alleged intoxicated person’ was served or furnished alcohol while he or she was showing signs of  visible intoxication, and the consumption of alcohol is determined to be a ‘foreseeable’ cause of the injury.

“There’s no benefit at all to bar owners to overserve a patron, because patrons have a variety of options when an alcohol-related incident or injury takes place,” Colella said.

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